With the biggest game of the season only two days away, it’s time to take a look at what’s actually going to transpire on the field. This rivalry has mostly been one sided, as Pittsburgh has taken 20 of the last 26 meetings. The Steelers play the role of big brother, far too often reminding the Bengals of their place in the division standings with an ill-timed thumping that thwarts our momentum. You need only remember back to the Week 7, nationally televised event where Pittsburgh pushed the Bengals primetime losing streak to nine games in a row. So why am I so confident that this weekend will be different? Because this is not the same Steelers team we have seen in recent memory, and here’s why:
A rare sight in the Iron City, there have been plenty of public spats among the Steelers this year. Feuding was apparent early when Ben Roethlisberger made it known that he disapproved of the forced retirement of long-time coordinator Bruce Arians after the 2011 season. I’m not sure he would have liked anyone replacing his mentor, but he made it abundantly clear that he was not in favor of Todd Haley and his short-passing offense. Mike Wallace has also lodged complaints in the media about his role in the offense. While his targets through 13 games were up this year, yardage and yards per catch are sagging due to Haley’s newly implemented scheme. Wallace’s contract situation has also been a cloud over the franchise, and when he dropped a late pass against Dallas last week, Steeler fans let him have it.
Finally, Rashard Mendenhall is coming off of a 1-game benching by coach Mike Tomlin. After learning he would be deactivated against the Chargers, Mendenhall was a no-show, which drew his coach’s ire. Clearly, the league’s most stable franchise is a little shaky right now. Normally, winning will whitewash some of these issues, but the 7-7 Steelers are not living up to their own lofty expectations. This is why: